Change, community, and compassion


Carol Willing


June 9, 2015

Today, I reflect on a life changing event. For a few days, we came together from around the world to form a community to share our thoughts on change and our compassion for individual experiences in technology. I’m sharing a very rough draft of a letter that I wrote on May 29, 2014. I hope you will find a nugget of wisdom, inspiration, or comfort in these jumbled, unedited yet heartfelt words. I am so grateful for AdaCamp San Francisco 2013 and its encouragement.

Change, community, and compassion matter. Peace.

Unedited text of a draft letter from May 29, 2014

It’s been almost one year since I experienced AdaCamp San Francisco.

Since AdaCamp, I:

  • attended 9 conferences in open source/computing.
  • encouraged more female speakers in my local business and tech community.
  • co-organize PyLadies in my local city and have strived to build a friendly helpful partnerships with our Python and Javascript and entrepreneurship communities.
  • Submitted my first contribution to an open source project (thanks to the GNOME Outreach Program for Women’s encouragement)
  • Made over 100 commits to open source projects over the past year.
  • Served on the PyCon program committee and PyCon poster presenter.
  • I’ve taught and encouraged others – k12 students, undergrad, grad students to men and women reentering the workforce or making a career change.

I did none of these things because I was “paid” to do so. I did these things because they were important to me and my desire to work in a tech community that embraces the value of people above hardware and software. Community means more than a box of parts and bits flying across a network.

One size doesn’t fit all. We are individuals – each with our own unique pasts, life stories, and aspirations.

What was AdaCamp’s role in my past year? Informative. Encouraging. Most honestly, AdaCamp was life changing.



Responded thoughtfully

Planned – I have never been to a professional event that was more thoughtful about food/meal planning, accessibility of facilities, quiet areas, community information (medical and crisis).

Strived to be thoughtful. Inclusive.

AdaCamp’s impact beyond just the two official days. Genuine women and allies at Community Leadership Summit, OSCON, LinuxCon, OpenHardware Summit, Grace Hopper, SCALE12x, PyCon, and more.

For many years, I tried to participate in open source but couldn’t muster the confidence to do so. I would gain the confidence and then be discouraged by the unclear instructions to contribute. Ultimately, it was easier to work on other non-profits where I could make a stronger impact.

Yet, software development is something I love doing. I enjoy the puzzle of putting together solutions to problems.

GNOME Outreach for Women Program – to make a “real” contribution to an open source project. Documentation for another project. It took me several months past that to realize that documentation was a “real” contribution in fact it’s a big part of how the community communicates to users and developers.

Safe space. Thoughtful communication. Safe space.

It’s where I thrive and I’m committed to keeping My neighborhood safe for learning, building, and sharing openly.

It matters and changes the world one person at a time. Does it have to be slow if one person at a time? I don’t think so. Call it exponential growth or viral but I’m hoping to seeing a big improvement in numbers and diversity before my children graduate from college six years from now.

Giving back through PyLadies and other local outreach efforts.

Striving to be part of the solution. It’s about people – individuals.

Gentle, thoughtful has a place in technology and business. It’s not orthogonal to good business but instead an essential element of creating and delivering meaningful offerings to others in our diverse, complicated world.

Listen, collaborate, and respond to the people that seem different than you.